A Numbers Game: Paul Goldschmidt’s Rough Start

What is behind Paul Goldschmidt‘s struggles at the plate? Numbers alone will not answer these and other questions about the first nine games of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 2018 season. But, they can provide great insight. After all, baseball is a numbers game.

Statcast, where stats like exit velocity, launch angle, perceived velocity, and spin rate come from, has revolutionized the sport. If you thought baseball was a stat-heavy game when batting average, wins, and RBIs were the main ways of evaluating talent, good luck trying to keep up with all the different numbers teams use today.

Here is a look at what StatCast has to say about Goldschmidt’s prolonged slump to begin his seventh full season in Major League Baseball.

A Tentative Swing

April has historically been a kind month to Goldschmidt. The D-Backs’ first baseman is a career .281 hitter in the first month of the season with 25 home runs and 101 RBIs. After nine games in 2018, Goldschmidt is hitting .100 with zero home runs and two RBIs. The D-Backs have weathered the storm at 7-2, but Goldschmidt will have to pick up his production.

Of the 185 total pitches Goldschmidt has seen in zones four, five, and six of the strike zone in 2018, he has taken called strikes 15 times (8.11 percent), tied for the eighth-most in the majors, according to Statcast.

The @Dbacks have had a tremendous start to the season, but MVP finalist Paul Goldschmidt has been no help. Here's why the All-Star is struggling.Click To Tweet

In just zone five, which is the middle of the plate, only Brett Gardner (13) has taken a called strike more often than Goldschmidt, who is tied with two other players with eight. In terms of outcomes that result in a swing and miss and a foul ball, Goldschmidt has 20 of those in zones four, five, and six of 185 total pitches (10.81 percent), tied for the 10th-most, according to Statcast.

Swing and Miss

When the finalist for the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player Award has gone into a slump in the past, he has been very tentative, with a tendency to swing and miss. That has been the case to start 2018. Goldschmidt is striking out 26.8 percent of the time this year, which is five percent above his career average.

In addition, Goldschmidt’s ground ball percentage is up more than nine percent from last season and his line drive percentage, which is what hitters are trying to do, is more than eight percent lower than last season.

His lower line drive rate speaks to this, but Goldschmidt has simply not hit the ball very hard. His average exit velocity of 89.5 MPH is down from last season (91.4 MPH), according to Statcast data provided by Baseball Savant.

Not surprisingly, Goldschmidt’s average launch angle is also noticeably down from 11.6 degrees last season to 5.9 degrees this season.

Despite all these indications, Goldschmidt has been too consistent over his career for this to be a long-term problem.

Manager Torey Lovullo told the Arizona Republic he is starting to see better results from his All-Star first baseman at the plate and expects him to turn the corner soon.

“I think it’s of minimal concern. I don’t feel like it’s going to linger. I think he’s going to go 30-100 (homers-RBIs). It’s just something he does every year. I know right now it’s not clicking for him, but I think it will shortly.”

In the Golden Gate City

Scouting Report: The D-Backs are matching up with the San Francisco Giants for the first time this season at AT&T Park. The Giants started the season cold at the plate, scoring two runs in their first four games, both on solo home runs from Joe Panik. But they have scored 21 in their last three. Andrew McCutchen broke out on Saturday against the Dodgers with six hits, including a walk-off home run in extra innings.

Dominance against lefties: The D-Backs have won six games in a row when the opponent starts a left-handed pitcher. They will match up with at least one left-hander this week.

Magic number of four runs: The D-Backs have won eight straight games when scoring at least four runs.

Loving the road: In 22 road games since August 21, 2017, the D-Backs are 15-7, the best record in the NL and the third-best in the majors.

Goldy in SF: Goldschmidt is a career .310 hitter with 16 doubles, 9 home runs and 41 RBIs at AT&T Park.

Here are the pitching matchups:

Monday: RHP Zack Godley (1-0, 1.29 ERA) vs. LHP Derek Holland (0-1, 5.40 ERA)

Tuesday: LHP Patrick Corbin (2-0, 1.38 ERA) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (1-0, 0.69 ERA)

Wednesday: LHP Robbie Ray (2-0, 5.73 ERA) vs. TBD

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